Brian Ketelsen
Erik St. Martin
Jul 20, 2016 7 min read

GopherCon 2016 - Retrospective

GopherCon 2016 has come and gone, and in keeping with our tradition we wanted to write up a brief retrospective to capture some of the highlights of the event. It’s hard to believe it happened so quickly — we spend months planning all the details and then when the conference arrives it is over in the blink of an eye. This year we were joined by 1400 Gophers from 36 different countries. Yes… 36 different countries. The diversity of people and thoughts at GopherCon was amazing, thanks in part to everyone who donated to the Diversity Scholarship. We’d like to thank VividCortex especially for their corporate donation. A community conference should represent the whole community, and our goal is to make the sea of faces at GopherCon look like the faces of Gophers everywhere. Thanks to everyone who helped get us closer to this goal by purchasing the adorable hoodies. We matched your donations at a 2:1 rate, tripling the funds available for tickets, airfare, lodging and meals. Together, we helped 37 people come to the conference this year, and that’s no small accomplishment!

This year we tried a new format - single track for the mornings with a choice of talks and tutorials in the afternoons. Everybody we talked to at the conference enjoyed this format, and we’ll likely keep a variation of it for next year. We got the benefit of a single-track format for most of the day, but provided a variety of topics after lunch for people to self-select based on their interest and skill levels.

We took a chance on live-streaming this year. Our Twitch channel had almost 9000 viewers over the course of the conference, with a peak of 2000 watching at any given time. The team at Backtrace was gracious enough to sponsor the additional A/V costs to bring this service to the rest of the world. We’re grateful to them for helping us with this experiment and we’re grateful to Gerred Dillon, plus the amazing folks at Twitch who helped us get everything set up before we started, then provided real-time support during the conference until we got everything just right. GopherCon is a community event, and it felt right to us to be able to include so much more of the Go community than those who can afford the time and cost to come to Denver. A live stream will never replace the value of a face-to-face interaction, but it felt like we were bringing the world to the conference with us.

Another first for this year was real-time captioning sponsored by our friends at Digital Ocean. We heard from several people that the captioning made it easier for everyone to enjoy the conference and understand the speaker, so we were pleasantly surprised that the benefit extended beyond those with hearing disabilities. Many of the people who were enjoying the live stream commented on the live captioning too. It made the entire event more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. The real-time transcription service was provided by White Coat Captioning and we just don’t have enough words to express our gratitude for their service. Our captioner Stacey Potenza was lightning quick and had a great technical background. Even though she was originally scheduled only for the morning sessions, we begged her to stay the full day because we loved it so much. Here’s her take on the event. We were all impressed at how effortlessly she transcribed even the most technical of talks. You’ll definitely see this next year at GopherCon, and we hope this catches on at other conferences.

A new addition this year was the Guide Program, organized by Andy Walker. Andy did a terrific job of pairing seasoned conference veterans with people who were looking for a guide. Our Guides made sure that their counterparts knew where to be and gave valuable advice to those who participated. The Guide Program was a big hit, with several first-time conference attendees getting more benefit out of the conference because of the assistance and advice the Guides gave them. We hope that these relationships continue beyond the conference, and we’re grateful to everyone who participated. Thank you Andy for putting this together and making it all work! One thing that we heard over and over last week was that the feeling of inclusion in the Go community is strong. We hope the Guide program helps keep the sense of community strong and sets the tone for the people who are new to the community.

Our third day, or Hack Day, was even bigger this year. Our Hack Day attendance doubled this year, which caused us some last minute scrambling in the catering department. We also noticed that many had trouble finding like-minded Gophers to hack with. Heather Sullivan quickly added white boards where folks could sign up with a table number so it was easier to find your friends and others interested in working on projects together. Another big hit on Hack Day was the “Go Project Room”. We recognize the importance of the community being able to communicate with the Go Team directly in this format, so we’ll expand that room next year and provide more space and Audio/Visual equipment to foster this valuable communication. The Hack Day will likely be renamed to something more fitting next year – perhaps “Community Day”. It was great to see everyone collaborating, communicating and having fun together in a loosely organized format like this.

We added a mobile application this year, thanks to the sponsorship of Ticketmaster. About half of the attendees installed the app, and overall the feedback was good. We’ll work on putting even more information in the app next year so that it becomes an invaluable resource for everyone at the conference.

This year we added a Family Track with the help of Anna Dollar. Several families participated in activities throughout the Denver area, and everyone reported having a great time while their family member attended the conference. We really appreciate the work Anna did to bring this program together and hope that she’ll help us expand it next year.

Finally, we’d like to thank all of our sponsors. Some of them, like Google, Twitch, Ardan, Digital Ocean, Apcera, and have sponsored all three years. Words can’t express our gratitude for your constant support. Other sponsors are making their first appearance at GopherCon, and it was fun to meet them and see what they’re bringing to the Go community. Here’s a list of this year’s sponsors. Do us and them a favor and think of them first when you’re searching for a vendor or a place to do business. They help us keep GopherCon one of the most affordable large conferences out there, and that benefits all of us.

Diamond   Platinum   Gold   Silver   Bronze   Other  
Google Twitch Minio CrowdStrike Rollbar
Ardan Labs Datadog Hashicorp   Docker Ticketmaster CoreOS Comcast Apcera Backtrace
Verizon The Voleon Group   InfluxData Intel
Digital Ocean   Pivotal Heroku LinkedIn
New Relic YikYak Netflix
backplane RedVentures  

At the end of the day, a conference will be judged by the experience at the event and by the speakers it puts on the stage. We think this year’s speakers were the best we’ve ever had. Thank you to Dave Cheney for curating our program this year and making sure that first-time speakers had a mentor to help them bring their best talk to the big stage. We were blown away by the professionalism and preparation of the speakers this year. You can see the slides here, and we’ll update that repository with links to the videos when they’re ready, hopefully in the first few weeks of August.

On behalf of the entire GopherCon staff, we’d like to thank everyone for coming. The feeling of community is strong, and we’re grateful to everyone who helped make this year’s conference a success.

We’ll see you next year!

Erik St. Martin and Brian Ketelsen